It’s International Woman’s Day today and this year’s theme is ‘balance for better’. It’s focused on how we can forge a gender-balanced world and celebrate women's achievements, so we want to highlight the importance of supporting women’s sport.
We’ve sponsored the Sheffield Hatters Women’s British Basketball League team, who won this year’s Cup Final, for over 9 years. The girls told us how being part of the team gives them so much more than just physical benefits.
We know that physical health goes hand in hand with mental health. Regular physical activity naturally boosts our mood as the brain releases endorphins - ‘feel good hormones’.
Players agree that being part of the team supports their mental health and can help with stress relief. Overseas student, Ana Santana González, says: “It helps me disconnect from other things that I have going on in my head, especially when it comes to my uni work. Playing helps me stay fit and allows me to meet new people and have new experiences with them.”
Friends for life
Working mum, Sarah Cooney, from Doncaster says: “I enjoy the physical benefits of playing such a high energy sport, but the Hatters are a family and I've made friends for life at the club. Socially, it's a big part of my life and even when I wasn't playing I'd be there every week to watch.”
American-born professional basketball player, Sarah Toeaina, says that the team is supportive, welcoming and helpful: “To play alongside by such a supportive and great group is an absolute blessing. I’m grateful my professional journey started here in the UK.”
“If I couldn’t play with this team I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to not only play the sport I love, but to meet such wonderful people,” says 17-year-old student, Jessica Southwall. “Being a part of the Hatters is more than a team, it’s a family and lifelong friendships. If I couldn’t play, I’d be losing a huge part of my life. Without basketball I wouldn’t be myself.”
Being a role model
With a gender gap of 1.73 million fewer women playing sport compared to men*, there’s still work that needs to be done to inspire the next generation to play sport.
Thirty-five year old Sarah Cooney says she enjoys being part of a movement that recognises women's sport to be on a par with male sports: “It’s important to set an example for the younger generation of potential sportswomen and I think our team play a huge part in inspiring them.”
Maths teacher Naomi Campbell says: “Playing sport has helped me inspire my students and show them that life is more than just academic achievements. I talk about how it supports my physical and mental health, can act as a social network and be a lot of fun along the way.”
Escaping life’s pressures
It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure of day to day life, whether that’s from work, studies or looking after your family. Players say that playing sport gives them some important ‘me’ time.
Sarah Cooney says: “It gives me that time away from my job and looking after my family. I've enjoyed playing again more than I ever thought I would. If I wasn’t a part of the team, I’d miss it so much.”
Jessica Southwall commented: “A-Levels are extremely stressful, but playing basketball allows me to escape the pressures of education for a few hours, which then helps with time management when it comes to separating work and sport.”
Playing on the team has given the girls a chance to meet people from all walks of life, and make friends with people from around the world.
“I don’t think I would’ve had the chance to travel as much and I would definitely not have as many friends around the world as I do now,” says Ana Santana González.
But it’s not just about meeting new people. German professional basketballer, Levke Brodersen, says that playing teaches you so much about life and yourself: “It shows you that you can achieve a lot by being a good teammate and working hard. You can really grow as a person. Without it, a big part of my life would be missing.”
Playing with talented and experienced team mates pushes you to get better at your craft. Jessica Southwell says it’s been an honour to play for such a successful club and being surrounded by experienced players and coaches from different backgrounds has allowed her to progress.
Sheffield based student. Brigha Allen, says: “I wanted to train with more experienced players to help me improve my game. I’m thankful to be able to play alongside talented players at the highest level in women’s basketball in Britain. If I wasn’t with the Hatters, I probably wouldn’t have grown as much as a player, as I wouldn’t have been able to gain the experience and knowledge that I have.”
We’re passionate about supporting people to do the things that best support their wellbeing. Find out more about how we’re making a healthy difference to the quality of life of our customers and the communities in which they live and work.